Spotlight Product Review: The First Years Home & Away Video Monitor

The new Home & Away Portable Video Monitor is The First Years’ first-ever audio/video monitor.  With high-tech features, ease of use and quality picture and sound, The First Years has a hit with this video monitor.

If you know us, you know that we are big fans of video monitors.  A device that not only allows you to hear your baby but also to allow you to peek on your sleeping baby without a squeaky door giving you away, determine that the crying you hear is due to tantrum and not injury, and with the magic of mute, can actually help you get a better night’s sleep while still monitoring your baby.

The Home & Away Video Monitor features digital technology to give you a 100% private connection so that you are the only one who can see and hear your baby.  Plus, that digital technology gives the monitor superb picture and sound. 

Let’s start with what feature stands out on this monitor.  Unlike most other baby monitors, you can use this monitor with a PC and Skype.  What that means is that parents can use Skype to view and even talk to their baby from any computer with internet anywhere in the world.  The monitor also allows parents to remotely take pictures and record video of the baby with the Skype.  And don’t worry, you can set up a secure Skype account so that no one else (unless you want them to) can see your baby via Skype.  The Skype option is easy to set up and doesn’t require a subscription or extra fee at all.  Love that!  I bet you never thought you would be Skyping with your baby so young?

Let’s get to the other great features of the monitor.  The monitor comes with one baby unit (the camera) and one parent handset unit. The handheld parent handset is rather compact measuring about 6 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.  Even though the parent unit isn’t the smallest on the market, we don’t mind because it has one of the largest screens on a handheld video monitor that we have seen.  It’s has a whopping 3.5” screen and, believe us, that is a big screen for a handheld!  When talking about a monitor screen, size does matter because a bigger screen gives you a bigger picture to see your child better.

The parent unit has a belt clip for easy carrying and a stand to keep it upright on a table. Best of all, the parent unit runs on an included rechargeable battery so rather than paying for a hundred batteries, you can just plug it in with an AC adapter to recharge it.

The parent unit features a power/battery level indicator light to let you know how much batter power is left, a connection indication to visually show you the handset is connected to the child unit and sound level lights.  The parent unit also features a volume control, which is usually great, but our least favorite feature of the monitor.  If the volume control feature was improved, the monitor would be nearly perfect. 

So, what is wrong with the volume on the parent unit?  The lowest level is still too loud.  Instead of a dial that you can adjust the volume as low as possible, this monitor has a + and a – with a select amount (5) of volume levels.  The lowest volume is just too loud for proper sleeping at night.  The problem (and it could be me) is that my baby sleeps with a humidifier on all night.  With other monitors, I can turn down the parent unit so that I can barely hear it but when he cries, I will hear that through the monitor and will wake up at night.  The lowest volume on the Home & Away is just too loud for proper sleeping for me that I find myself turning the sound all the way off.  Who gets to sleep with a new baby anyway, right?  So, if they could fix that, this monitor and I would be BFFs. 

Now, one of my favorite features of the parent unit is the talkback button.  This is the button that turns the monitor into a walkie-talkie so that I can talk to my baby through the camera to soothe him and let him know I’m on my way.  This feature is also good if you have the monitor in a toddler’s room to keep them in line and remind them to stay in bed.  Plus, there is a talkback volume control on the camera to adjust the volume to your liking. 

And if those features aren’t enough, the parent unit features a clock, brightness adjustment, a headphone jack (great for when dad is mowing the lawn!), nightlight on/off button, camera scan button (you can add up to 3 additional cameras), zoom button to zoom the picture in and a pan function to move the picture around when you are zoomed in.  I’m telling you this monitor is stocked with features!

The baby unit (camera) is pretty great too!  The camera can be set on a dresser or tabletop or mounted to a wall.  We love that the camera head can be adjusted to get the perfect angle to see your little one.  A great feature (one that you won’t find on all video monitors) is that the camera can not only be plugged in with the AC adapter but runs on batteries as well. We love that the camera takes batteries for those times that an outlet is not convenient, but know that the camera isn’t meant to be run on batteries all the time because it will go through batteries quickly. 

Another favorite feature of the camera is the built-in nightlight.  The nightlight has a blue glow and can be turned on or off by the camera or the parent unit.  The nightlight is perfect to give the room a little glow without lighting it up too much. 

One of the main things you need to know about a video monitor is how good the reception is.  A video monitor doesn’t matter if you can’t hear or see your baby, right?  We are happy to report that the reception is fantastic on the Home & Away.  We always got a perfect signal no matter where we were in the house.  No static.  No interference.   Plus, the range on the monitor isn’t too bad. The First Years advertise a range of 650 feet.  What that means is that we were able to get to our mailbox before the parent unit began to beep and a screen showed up to tell us we were out of range. 

While we only tested the monitor with one camera, it’s good to know that there is a great scan feature when you have multiple cameras in use.  If you put the parent unit on scan, it will display an image form each camera for a short period of time and then advance to the next camera.  2 cameras = 10 second on each camera.  3+ cameras = 6 seconds on each camera.

Even though we aren’t crazy about the limited volume control, overall, we are very impressed with the monitor.  Great reception, great picture, Skype capability to see your baby away from home, large screen, nightlight, talk-back feature are all features we look for and retailing for $189 isn’t too shabby.  The only thing missing would be a lullaby option but definitely not a deal breaker with us!  If you are looking for a video monitor, you definitely should consider The First Years Home & Away Monitor

SHOP The First Years Home & Away Monitor HERE